A startup building autonomous field maintenance equipment for the solar industry has set up shop north of San Antonio International Airport.
Renu Robotics Corp. leased office space at 12918 Delivery Drive in May, adding to the testing facility it operates in the Austin suburb of Wimberley. The 7,800-square-foot site will be the company’s headquarters and manufacturing facility for its first project — an automated mower programmed to maneuver around panels on solar farms.
The move has been in the works for several months, and now that CEO Tim Matus is settled in, he hopes to start hiring soon. The company is looking to begin selling the mower in September, at which time it will need sales, operations and software maintenance teams, he said.
The company’s team of 16 people — including four full-time and three contract employees — consists of at least two former Southwest Research Institute employees. The research institute’s presence in San Antonio was one of the motivating factors in Renu Robotics moving here, Matus said.
“Austin always brags about being the technology area, but the reality is what we’ve found is there are more people here in San Antonio that had that type of knowledge and that type of capability,” he said.
Before the company hires more people, it needs to raise $2.2 million. So far, Renu has attracted investments of $500,000 and a customer in Virginia, Matus said.
Matus, a San Antonio native with a background in engineering, has worked at multiple startups over the past 15 years, including oilfield technology firm Itsa Energy, which was sold in 2014. He believes that his latest venture, founded with Austin businessman Michael Eyman, will be successful because it takes advantage of an emerging market that other heavy equipment manufacturers haven’t entered.
“You have the small private space, which is the little lawn mowers, and those are not going to be able to handle an airport or a hundred acres a month,” engineering manager Mike Blanton said. “Then you have the giant ones like John Deere, so there’s a space in the middle where this fits.”
Over the next two years, the company plans to build three more pieces of equipment, including an automated solar panel cleaner. And it eventually hopes to train its mower to work in other locations, including in airports and around pipelines and power lines.